LeBron James and Kevin Durant again will be the captains of the two teams in this year's All-Star Game, as the NBA announced on Thursday night the starters for its annual midseason showcase to be held Feb. 20 in Cleveland.
James, who now has been a captain in each of the five years the NBA has used the current system to pick its teams, and Durant, who is one for a second straight year, earned the honor by finishing with more fan votes than anyone in their respective conferences.
James has now made 18 All-Star teams, tying Kobe Bryant for second place all time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19).
Joining James as starters from the Western Conference are Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant in the backcourt, along with reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and forward Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors in the frontcourt.
From the East, Durant, a 12-time All-Star, is joined by Chicago Bulls guard DeMar DeRozan and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young in the backcourt, and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt. Durant's availability for the game is a question mark as he continues to recover from a sprained knee ligament.
Wiggins' selection as a starter was somewhat of a surprise, even though he's averaging 18.1 points per game.
The selection for the starters was based on fan ballots for 50% of the vote, and a media panel and current players each made up 25%.
Wiggins was able to edge teammate Draymond Green for the third West frontcourt spot. Wiggins received fewer player and media votes, but he ranked third among the fans' voting while Green was sixth. As a result, Wiggins ended up with a weighted score of 4.25 points; Green came in at 4.75.
"It was mind blowing," Wiggins said of finding out he was an All-Star starter. "I was taking my pregame nap and my girl and daughter woke me up and told me, 'You are a starter, you are a starter.' I thought I was dreaming for a second. I was like, what is going on? It was a good way to learn that I made it to the All-Star, and I am thankful.
"I have been putting in a lot of work and I have found a home here. Hopefully I can keep it going and this is not the last one."
Per Elias Sports Bureau research, Wiggins is the third first-time All-Star to be named a starter in his eighth season or later (Bob Boozer in his eighth season in 1967-68; Kyle Lowry in his ninth season in 2014-15). He is the 40th different No. 1 overall pick in the modern draft era (since 1966) to make an All-Star team in his career -- but the first of those not to make it until his eighth season or later.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he was happy to see Wiggins' work rewarded.
"One of the proudest moments just to see what Wiggs has done since he got here a couple of years go," Kerr said. "The journey he has traveled has been rocky at times, and to see how hard he's worked and to see all the work rewarded, just could not be happier for him.''
Curry, now an eight-time All-Star, has helped lead Golden State back to the upper tier of the Western Conference after two injury-plagued years interrupted the Warriors' string of five consecutive NBA Finals trips. Morant, meanwhile, makes his first All-Star appearance as Memphis, one of the most entertaining teams in the league, has pushed itself into third in the West.
Blessed & Thankful 🙏🏽 My Fans, I Appreciate You. 🖤— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) January 28, 2022
To Memphis, Murray State, Da Gang, Organization, Couldn't Do It Without Y'all. 🐻🐎
To MBNO, ™️ . We Got More Work To Do.
Love Yall 🤞🏽
Jokic, playing in his fourth straight All-Star Game, has followed up winning last year's MVP by averaging 26.2 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game for Denver this season, keeping the Nuggets afloat while missing Jamal Murray for the entire season thus far and Michael Porter Jr. for all but a handful of games.
DeRozan, who joined the Bulls as a free agent this summer after playing the prior two seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, has played a massive role in Chicago's resurgence toward the top of the Eastern Conference standings, earning MVP consideration thanks to impressive clutch play while averaging 26.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists. This is his fifth All-Star selection.
His starting nod was announced by Bulls teammate Zach LaVine -- who finished just behind Young in the East backcourt vote -- while the team was aboard its flight to San Antonio for a game Friday night.
Zach broke the news of DeMar's All-Star announcement on our team plane ❤️ pic.twitter.com/AFcW9ShWrm— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 28, 2022
"We don't get younger in this league," DeRozan said later. "So for me just to overcome everything I overcame. And coming into a new situation and everything that is going on team wise, it just makes it special to come back and not just be All-Star but to be voted in as a starter. It's just one of those moments you know I don't know what to call it, I can't even give it a title; but it just feels good."
Young made his second All-Star team; he's averaging 27.7 points and 9.3 assists while posting career-best shooting percentages of 45.3% overall and 38% from 3-point range.
While Philadelphia has spent the season without All-Star guard Ben Simmons, Embiid has more than picked up the slack, averaging career highs in points (29) and assists (4.3) per game, as well as 3-point percentage (38%) to keep the 76ers in the middle of the East playoff picture. And Antetokounmpo has been the one constant for the defending champion Bucks this season amid a torrent of injuries and COVID-19 absences, averaging 28.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and a career-high 6.0 assists per game.
The All-Star reserves, who will be selected by the coaches in both conferences, will be unveiled next Thursday on TNT. James and Durant then will pick their respective teams, a format the league first instituted in 2018.
ESPN's Jamal Collier contributed to this report